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Date Modified: September 9, 2023

If someone caused harm or harm to a person or person’s property or their body, and it was on purpose, the plaintiff may have a case in in one of the many subcategories of tort. A tort is a wrongful act, and many involve acts of simple negligence.

For example, a car accident due to a distracted driver falls under negligence tort. An intentional tort differs from negligence as the person’s mental state is completely different from the person committing a wrongful act due to negligence (a careless act).

Let’s explore and navigate what intentional tort is with Ehline Law and our United States personal injury attorneys.

  • Video Transcript - What are Common Law Intentional Torts?

    Video Transcript - What are Common Law Intentional Torts?

    "0:00 What are common-law intentional torts?

    0:03 Common law torts are torts that come

    0:05 from ancient England. You were only

    0:08 allowed to sue for certain torts under

    0:10 common law for example there was no

    0:12 statute for wrongful death. So if someone

    0:15 was killed in your family due to the

    0:17 wrongs of another that person could be

    0:19 punished criminally. But there was no way

    0:22 to sue that person because the

    0:25 victim’s tort was deemed to have died

    0:28 with the victim. But later on in the

    0:30 United States, the states in this country

    0:34 decided that it was unfair. And there

    0:38 were also situations where we had

    0:40 Hatfields and McCoys going around and

    0:42 shooting each other because you may have

    0:45 killed someone’s uncle.

    0:46 And now the uncles family member are

    0:48 going to come after you and try and kill

    0:49 one of your family members. We had a lot

    0:51 of that going on in the early days in

    0:53 this country with people wearing guns

    0:55 and carrying shotguns everywhere with

    0:56 them. And so a lot of the states decided

    0:58 to come up with a statute that would 1:01 allow people to recover for wrongful

    1:02 death. Now, under English common law we

    1:05 have several different types of torts

    1:08 that you could recover for conversion if

    1:10 you were to convert someone’s property

    1:12 to your own use you could sue that

    1:14 person who converted the property. If

    1:17 someone trespassed on your land you

    1:19 could go after that person for money

    1:21 damages for trespass there is also false

    1:25 imprisonment where if you falsely

    1:28 imprison someone not allowing them a

    1:30 reasonable means of escape you could

    1:32 recover under English common law. But

    1:33 Modernly, statutes and legislation have

    1:36 expanded the common-law notions of

    1:39 negligence to include many other things

    1:41 like I said such as wrongful death

    1:43 survival statutes, etc. [Music]"

In the end, you will be prompted to do a zip code search and arrange a free consultation with local counsel.

What Are Common Law Intentional Torts?

Intentional torts are wrongful acts carried out on purpose or done knowingly against a plaintiff or their family. Even if there is no intent to harm, but the other person suffers injuries, the act would fall under intentional tort. An example of this could be playing a prank on a person with a heart condition who suffers a heart attack. It could lead to a valid intentional tort claim based on false imprisonment or other most common intentional torts.

Intentional torts may also lead to criminal cases, but it does not prevent the victims from pursuing compensatory damages in civil courts.

Can You Know When an Intentional Tort Occurs?

There are different elements of every claim, which may vary. However, victims can assess a few things to identify a possibility of a personal injury lawsuit.

Here are a few things you should think about to learn if you have a valid legal claim for intentional conduct:

  • Did someone act with intent to make contact with you?
  • Did that contact injury occur to you?
  • Did the contact lead to harm, injuries, or emotional distress?
  • Did you provide consent for such a contact?

If you’re unsure whether you have a valid legal claim or other intentional torts that may apply, discuss your case with an experienced personal injury lawyer. You may be entitled to recover full value from the outrageous defendant or defendants.

Common Intentional Torts

Under tort law, several types of intentional torts exist (where a defendant acted intentionally.). There may be other acts or wrongful conduct the defendant intended to commit which may not fit the pre-existing categories. However, some courts may hear such an intentional tort case while the DA files the same facts as a criminal case.

Let’s go over the most common intentional torts for which the plaintiff can seek damages in civil litigation. Assault and battery are closely related and are very common intentional torts.


A physical injury doesn’t have to arise to charge someone with assault or find them guilty criminally. Assault is a threat or an intention to cause harm that can cause an apprehension of unlawful violence in the victim.

An individual needs to cause fear or apprehension in another person to constitute an assault; for example, if someone holds you at gunpoint, that’s an assault. An assault could be looked at as an attempted battery, which is also a civil wrong, placing plaintiffs in a reasonable apprehension of being struck or touched without consent.


Battery, on the other hand, is actual physical violence or offensive touching perpetrated upon an individual, and it could involve hitting someone or making offensive contact.

Under tort law, the battery could also include medical procedures on an unconscious patient without their consent. While an assault is an apprehension of harmful or offensive contact, battery is an intentional act of harm that can lead to a wrongful death or a consequence like murder.

The contact may be harmful or offensive, but it doesn’t need to cause injuries to establish an intentional tort case. If a person punches another individual, it will constitute battery even if the victim does not suffer physical injuries from the punch.

The intention to cause the exact harm a person suffers is not a requirement for the battery. Suppose a person intends to punch an individual in the head to cause minor injuries and do so, but the person dies due to a fractured skull sustained in a previous accident. In that case, the defendant will be responsible for the person’s death, not the harm they intended to deliver. Punitive damages are often sought for these types of private citizen claims when someone intentionally touches a victim. This type of recklessness by the perpetrator may also be punished criminally by authorities depending on the circumstances.


Defamation occurs when someone knowingly says a false statement about another person, which can cause damage or harm to that individual. However, if the statement made by the person is true, it can be a defense for the defendant to use.

Defamation could be in the form of a written statement (libel) or verbally spoken words (slander).

False imprisonment

False imprisonment, or false arrest, is when a person confines another individual without legal authority. Under the law, no one can restrict another’s right to freedom or personal liberty with this type of confinement danger.

However, there are two exceptions: statutory authority, whereby police can detain someone they suspect of crimes, and shopkeeper’s privilege, whereby a shopkeeper can hold an individual in custody if they suspect them of stealing.

False imprisonment does not necessarily have to involve the use of force, and it could be serious threats of violence to a person who tries to leave.


A much minor form of theft that falls under civil law, conversion is when someone takes someone else’s personal property and does not necessarily involve depriving the property owner permanently from using their property. An individual borrowing an item and refusing to return it on time agreed can also be an act of conversion.

The defendant may be held liable for conversion if they damaged the plaintiff’s property. For example, a defendant borrowing a car from the plaintiff and returning it in a worse condition can make them liable for conversion by a judge or a jury.

Emotional Distress

Intentional infliction of emotional distress occurs when a defendant’s actions cause severe emotional distress or bodily harm to the plaintiff. Emotional harm is subjective, which makes it challenging to fight such cases in civil courts. A plaintiff must prove the defendant’s extreme or outrageous conduct to prove intentional infliction of emotional distress claim successfully.


Fraud is a broad term that can describe many different cons, misrepresentations, and scams. On the other hand, deceit is a term used to explain a defendant’s intentional misrepresentation to the plaintiff and other important people. Only a well trained attorney can evaluate the lies the victims were relying upon and get a sense of whether a court might compensate the victims.


Trespass occurs when the defendant uses the plaintiff’s property without their consent and includes trespass to land and trespass to chattel civil case. The law considers plaintiff’s land or someone else’s property to be subject to this rule as well.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Ehline Tort Law Experts

Remember that the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard is higher than the preponderance of the evidence standard in most civil cases. Ehline Law and our personal injury attorneys have over a decade of experience handling intentional tort cases and protecting the rights of injured victims injured by harmful contact. Even when fraud occurs, call us for our legal perspective before you try and sue over the harm caused, including the mental distress.

If you’ve suffered harm or injuries from another’s intentional misconduct, contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation from our legal professionals. You may be eligible for compensation based on facts arising out of a crime.

Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world-famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of U.S. history’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients.
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